Is Progress Being Made In America’s Treatment Of Drug Users ?

This story talks about changes in the current treatment of drug users. There are signs of more compassion, but at the same time the hard core War On Drugs mentality is still very prevalent. The article talks about Drug Court, which is trying to point out one way society has changed to being more compassionate. In some cases yes, and in many cases no.

Drug Courts are a highly structured and strict program that mandates participants to attend Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous among a host of other conditions. There are a lot of Drug Court practices that are not actually compassionate at all. Sometimes it ends up being much worse for the participant than if they would of not agreed to Drug Court in the first place.

More states are releasing prisoners for over crowding, which is creating it’s own set of problems. Many of these prisoners are on probation once released and mandated to attend AA/NA. This creates many of the safety problems and crimes we are seeing in AA/NA today. These problems are only getting worse and not better for the rooms of AA/NA, as this practice continues of mandating sexual offenders and violent felons to 12 step meetings in droves.

Pills and progress
Signs of compassion mixed with pragmatism are emerging in America’s treatment of drug users, who are also changing their habits

Feb 11th 2012 | ATLANTA AND AUSTIN

Pill Mills

ON A recent evening, some 50 people turned up for their weekly reckoning at Judge Joel Bennett’s drug court in Austin, Texas. Those who had had a good week—gone to their Narcotics Anonymous meetings and stayed out of trouble—got a round of applause. The ones who had stumbled received small punishments: a few hours of community service, a weekend in jail, a referral to inpatient treatment. Most were sanguine about that. Completing the programme will mean a year of sobriety and the dismissal of their criminal charges.

After the session, Mr Bennett noted that the drugs problem has grown worse during his nearly 20 years on the bench, largely due to poverty, poor education and cycles of abuse. Still, he reckoned, less punitive approaches to drug users are gaining acceptance. That is largely because the punitive approach has failed.

Political policy
More than 40 years have passed since Richard Nixon declared a federal “war on drugs”, and drug use is still a big problem. In 2008 roughly 8.9% of Americans aged 12 and older used an illegal drug, up from 5.8% in 1991-93. Nor have the consequences abated: in 2008, according to preliminary data from the Centres for Disease Control (CDC), there were 37,792 drug-induced deaths, compared with 14,218 in 1995.


The cost of jailing so many people, particularly in straitened times, together with a lessening in the pressure on politicians (because of the declining violence) have led to a change in the tough-on-crime rhetoric. In 2009 Gil Kerlikowske, the director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, announced that the office would no longer use the phrase “war on drugs”. Sixteen states have legalised marijuana for medical use, and over a dozen have similar legislation pending. In 2010 Barack Obama signed the Fair Sentencing Act, which lets judges take mitigating factors into account when sentencing a prisoner, reversing the mandatory-minimum policies that led to long jail terms for non-violent crimes. It also reversed the sentencing disparity between convictions for crack and powder cocaine, enacted in 1986 when crack was believed to be more addictive and dangerous than powder (as well as more popular with poor blacks than rich whites).

At least 23 states have passed or are considering similar reforms. Proposals vary, but many would grant judges more leeway in sentencing and also steer low-level, non-violent drug offenders away from prison and toward alternatives: community-supervised treatment, probation, halfway houses and daily reporting. Drug treatment is included in Mr Obama’s health-care reforms, with effect from 2014.

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